A homer in the seventh and two more in the eighth enabled the Rakuten Golden Eagles to pull away from the Chiba Lotte Marines Saturday at Chiba Marine Stadium 7-3. Lotte starter Shunsuke Watanabe was pelted by five runs on seven hits in seven innings to step back to 1-1 while Eagles reliever Hiroki Yamamura is now 1-0 after three innings of one run, one hit ball and striking out five and walking two.
Yasuhiro Ichiba started for Rakuten and wasn't around long, as he was victimized by two runs on five hits in 3.2 innings.
Lotte shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka singled to center in the first and went to second on a groundout, but he then decided to try and steal third and was thrown out by catcher Motohiro Shima. That would be costly, as first baseman Julio Zuleta singled to right for what should have been an RBI. Ichiba would then put seven of the next eight away to get through three.
The Eagles used a one out walk to Shima in the third, a hit and run groundout that advanced him to second, and a double to leftcenter by second baseman Yosuke Takasu to take a 1-0 lead.
In the fourth, though, Lotte DH Matt Watson doubled off the leftfield fence with one out and rightfielder Benny Agbayani walked. Leftfielder Takeshi Aono doubled to the wall in leftcenter and both Watson and Agbayani put it in gear for the plate and a 2-1 edge. Catcher Tasuku Hashimoto walked and Ichiba was told to have a shower by manager Katsuya Nomura, who transfered the ball to Yamamura. Third baseman Toshiaki Imae grounded to Yamamura to stifle further scoring.
Rakuten would turn this state of affairs around in the sixth when centerfielder Teppei Tsuchiya tripled into the rightfield corner and Takasu singled to center to get Tsuchiya in. Takasu stole second and went to third on a groundout. Third baseman Jose Fernandez walked. DH Takeshi Yamasaki flied out to left and Takasu tagged up and ran in to make it 3-2.
Yamamura struckout the side in the home ups. The Eagles, bostered by that, pulled another deuce out of the bag in the seventh. Leftfielder Rick Short doubled down the leftfield line and was pinch run for by Akihisa Makita, who went to third on a groundout. Nomura then decided to squeeze with Shima, who bunted it back hard to Watanabe, who flipped to Hashimoto, who tagged Makita out. Tsuchiya brought some heavy manners to a 1-2 fastball that Watanabe was attempting to throw inside on and airmailed it into the rightfield stands to put it at 5-2.
However, Yamamura walked Hashimoto with one out in the bottom stanza and, following another out, Hashimoto went to second on a passed ball. Second baseman Hisao Heiuchi tripled up the rightcenter gap to shave it to 5-3 and knock Yamamura out in favor of Akira Matsumoto. Nishioka walked and the tying run was on. Centerfielder Daisuke Hayakawa, though, grounded to second and the six men after that were all dispatched without reaching, too.
Eagles rightfielder Koichi Isobe singled to left in the eighth and was erased on a double play. Yamasaki punished a Yoshihide Kanda offering into the leftfield seats. First baseman Kevin Witt exited to the righthand side and it was 7-3, which was your final.
The win put the Eagles into third, making this the latest they have ever been in the first division in a season.
Ichiba's velocity has declined, which only exacerbates his erratic command.
For Lotte, Zuleta was 1-4 with two strikeouts and is at .308. Agbayani was 0-3 with a walk and is at .212. Watson was 1-4 with two strikeouts and is at .125.
For Rakuten, Fernandez was 0-3 with a walk and is at .222. Witt was 1-4 and is at .182. Short was 1-3 and is at .286.
The middle of the Nippon Ham order delivered a total of three runs in the first inning and Yu Darvish went all the way on two runs and five hits while striking out 14 in a 3-2 decision over Softbank at Fukuoka Dome Saturday. Darvish, who is now 1-0 this year after three starts, became the first man since Hideo Nomo in 1990 and only the second all time to fan 14 in back to back nine inning contests. He was clocked at 94mph.
Kazumi Saito started for the Hawks and still isn't locked in yet, as he averaged 18 pitches an inning during his six innings of three run, seven hit ball to level his record at 1-1.
With two gone in the top of the first, Nippon Ham leftfielder Tomochika Tsuboi ratcheted a fastball that was up in the zone off the leftfield fence for a triple and DH Fernando Seguignol singled to right to drive him in. Rightfielder Atsunori Inaba stroked a shot to the wall in center for an RBI double. Catcher Shinji Takahashi singled to right and Inaba reported for a 3-0 lead.
Softbank endeavored to compensate for that in their turn when centerfielder Naoyuki Omura singled to center and shortstop Munenori Kawasaki doubled down the leftfield line. One out later, First baseman Nobuhiko Matsunaka grounded to short and Omura crossed to make it 3-1. Third baseman Hiroki Kokubo grounded to third baseman Andy Green, who dropped it for an error. But Darvish retired 13 of the next 14 men to finish five innings.
Nippon Ham had two on and two out on walks in the second and they stagnated on the basepaths. They also had two on and one out in the fourth, but Saito struck the next two batters out. He then had his only perfect inning in the fifth before limiting the Fighters to a single in the sixth and departing the scene.
Darvish struckout the side in the seventh to reach 11 in that department. In the eighth, though, pinch hitter Mitsuru Honma beat out a chopper and Omura torqued one off the rightfield wall, but only got a single out of it as Honma went to third. Kawasaki grounded to second and Honma scored to put it at 3-2. One out later, Matsunaka was intentionally walked to face the righthand hitting Kokubo, who popped up and Darvish capped it off with two more whiffs and a groundout in the ninth to clinch it.
For Nippon Ham, Seguignol was 1-3 with a walk and is at .271. Green was 0-4 with two strikeouts and is at .189.
For Softbank, DH Brian Buchanan was 0-4 with two strikeouts and is at .286. C.J. Nitkowski also got into the game and put two hitless innings together to keep his ERA at 0.00.
Seibu veteran righthander Fumiya Nishiguchi was outstanding Saturday with seven innings of one run, five hit pitching on 112 pitches and his teammates in the batting order got a run each out of four different scoring opportunities to cart of a 4-1 victory against Orix at Osaka Dome. Nishiguchi is now 3-0 for the first time in his career and ended a personal four decision losing streak at the herd's homeground, his first triumph there in five years.
Masato Yoshii started for Orix and did okay, three runs on seven hits in 6.1 innings, but he is the anti-Nishiguchi, now displaying a record of 0-3.
Lions centerfielder Kazuki Fukuchi christened the match with a double to left in the first and moved to third on a groundout. One out later, first baseman Alex Cabrera beat out a grounder toward short and it was 1-0.
They tacked on another in the second when rightfielder Takahiko Sato doubled to left and advanced to third on a groundout before tagging up and crossing on a fly ball to right from third baseman Yoshihito Ishii that stretched it to 2-0.
Orix had two on and two out in the first and that was broken up on a groundout. They would realize only one more baserunner through six.
The gap with Seibu widened in the seventh, as Sato doubled to left, hopped over to third on a groundout and Ishii walked. Kazuya Motoyanagi stood in for Yoshii and plunked Fukuchi. He then unleashed a wild pitch and Sato hotfooted it in to make it 3-0. A strikeout and a groundout hindered further damage.
Buffaloes DH Tuffy Rhodes, though, went yard to right in the home edition and first baseman Hirotoshi Kitagawa singled to center, as did rightfielder Shinji Shimoyama. But a pair of comebackers and a strikeout bogged that down and the Lions pen provided two flawless innings to keep Orix in check.
Seibu's last run was on a one out walk to catcher Toru Hosokawa in the ninth and a double to left by Ishii that Hosokawa was able to score from first on and that is how it ended, 4-1.
Before the recent bad run at Osaka Dome, Nishiguchi had won 12 consecutive decisions there up through 2002.
For Orix, Rhodes was 1-3 with a walk and is at .237. Third baseman Greg LaRocca was 1-4 and is at .432.
For Seibu, Cabrera was 1-3 with an HBP and is at .233. DH Jeff Liefer was 0-4 and is at .273.
Tanaka's last start drew a 12.3% rating in the Tohoku (northeastern Japan)
region with a momentary high of 17.7%. Officials with the local tv outlet
that has the rights to the Eagles games were initially worried that because
it was mostly a female audience that was at home during the day when it
was aired ratings would decline over what they get for the usual array
of aftermoon "wide shows" (gossipy panel talk programs) one sees in Japan
in that time slot, so they were well chuffed with the results. To be frank,
the wide shows suck. You would need a double lobotomy to enjoy them, so
baseball on at that time should be a big improvement.
Seibu Jason Johnson had his elbow looked at in the U.S. and he was diagnosed with a severe inflammation. That could keep hom on the shelf for anywhere from one to two months.
Former Seibu pitcher Takeshi Ishii has opened a baseball school in Minoshima, Wakayama Prefecture to develop players and also to give instruction to those who want to coach. It's called the Wakayama Sports Academy and is located iun Hidakagawa-cho. They will accept players who are no longer in high school or college. Women are also encouraged to apply. For more information, phone: 737-82-0189.